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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"The provisional census figures confirm the challenge before India's policy makers"
 real 28k

Monday, 26 March, 2001, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Census confirms one billion Indians
Crowd at the Kumbh Mela festival
It took two million census workers to complete the count
India's population has officially passed the one-billion mark.

The provisional results of India's latest official census confirm the country is now the world's second largest after China.

Bookstall in Delhi
Literacy is on the rise
The figures show an increase of 180 million people over the past decade, although the rate of growth went down slightly.

The census shows two out of three Indians can now read and write, with the number of illiterates falling for the first time since independence half a century ago.

Full results awaited

The census was carried out over three weeks earlier this year in what the Indian Government called one of the biggest administrative exercises in the world.

But the full results - which are expected to provide information about how India's economic reforms have affected the population - are not likely to be available for nearly two years.

The exercise involved about two million census workers, who visited homes in more than 5,000 towns and cities and more than 600,000 villages.

There were a number of changes to this year's census. Giving details of their occupation, respondents were this time able to answer: "Software engineer".

Census officials are confident the exercise will be more than a mere head count and give a true demographic picture of the country.

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See also:

09 Feb 01 | South Asia
India begins epic census
06 Feb 01 | South Asia
Quake leaves million homeless
25 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Indian prostitutes reject 'beggar' status
28 Dec 00 | Americas
US population 'bigger than ever'
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Kashmir census fails to start
12 Oct 99 | World population
World population: Special report
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